Ranking the Top 2021 NBA Free Agents at Power Forward

| July 31, 2021 3:36 am PDT

The power forward position presents a good mix of up-and-coming players along with others that can provide a veteran presence.

Looking at the 2021 NBA free agent pool, this position is a bit top-heavy. However, there is value further down the list.

Let’s see where the best options fall in line in my NBA free agent power forward rankings for 2021.

5. Paul Millsap

We start this list with 36-year-old Paul Millsap. Millsap will enter his 16th season this fall. He is a four-time All-Star, making the team from 2014-2017.

Millsap spent the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz. He came off the bench in his first four seasons, but moved into the starting lineup during his fifth season. In 2010-2011, he increased his points per game from 11.6 to 17.3.

It’s interesting because when you look at player efficiency rating, the 2011-2012 season was his best. However, his average points came down and he shot under 50 percent for the first time in his career.

Following the 2012-2013 season, Millsap signed with the Atlanta Hawks. He made the All-Star team in all four seasons with the Hawks.

Let’s look at his cumulative stats with Atlanta.

  • 17.5 points
  • 3.3 assists
  • 8.3 rebounds
  • 1.7 steals
  • 46.2 field goal percentage
  • 33.6 three-point percentage

He has spent the previous four years of his career with the Denver Nuggets. While his points per game and minutes are down, his three-point shooting is up. Over those four seasons, he has shot 37.2 percent from three. That includes a career-best 43.5 percent in the 2019-2020 season.

Because of his age, his production is slowing down. He won’t be an All-Star caliber player, but he still has the potential to provide an impact off the bench

Millsap has shown the ability to be an effective shooter, especially from beyond the arc. That’s important for any player, let alone a big man.

It seems like Denver is more focused on re-signing their other free agents, so it’s looking like Millsap will leave town.

If so, I’d like to see him join an up-and-coming team that could use his veteran presence.

Obviously, money is going to play a big hand, but I could see him fitting in well with a team like the Hawks or the Memphis Grizzlies.

4. Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is the most accomplished player in these 2021 NBA free agent power forward rankings.

Griffin is a six-time All-Star, a three-time member of the All-NBA second team, and was Rookie of the Year in 2011.

When Griffin came into the NBA, his big talent was his dunking ability. However, over the years, he evolved his game to become an All-Star player.

Griffin averaged over 20 points in seven of his eight seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s hard to pinpoint which season was his best because they were all similar on the stat sheet.

In 2013-2014, he averaged 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. He also shot 52.8 percent from the field.

Los Angeles traded Griffin to the Detroit Pistons midway through the 2017-2018 season. He made the All-Star team in his first full season with the team. He averaged 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, and he shot 36.2 percent from three.

He only played 38 games over the next season and a half with the Pistons, and he spent the second half of last season with the Brooklyn Nets.

At 32 years old, Griffin is no longer the high flyer he was early in his career, but he’s capable of performing as an above-average role player.

We saw Griffin step up in the playoffs last season, with a pair of double-doubles in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

When the Pistons bought out Griffin’s contract, he signed with the Nets for just $1.2 million. I’d have to think we’ll see him get a pay raise. However, it’s going to depend on which team offers him.

At the moment, we don’t know a lot about Griffin’s market. It seems like there is mutual interest between Griffin and the Nets.

The issue is that the Nets don’t have a lot of money to offer. Griffin would likely have to agree on a contract that barely paid him above the league minimum.

We’ll see if another team can sway Griffin with a bigger offer.

3. Kelly Olynyk

Had I made a list of the best NBA power forward free agents a few months ago, Kelly Olynyk wouldn’t have been on it. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have considered him at all, but his play last season couldn’t go unrecognized.

Olynyk was a solid contributor for both the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. In his first four seasons in Boston, he averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. He joined the Miami Heat following the 2016-2017 season.

From there, he spent three and a half seasons in South Beach. During that time, his numbers remained consistent with 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. Olynyk also never shot above 50 percent in a season. However, everything changed when the Houston Rockets acquired him last season.

In 27 games with Houston, Olynyk looked like a different player. Check out his stats.

  • 19.9 points
  • 4.1 assists
  • 8.4 rebounds
  • 1.4 steals
  • 54.5 field goal percentage
  • 39.2 three-point percentage

With the exception of the three-point percentage, all those stats represented career highs, and he also posted a 22.3 player efficiency rating with Houston. For reference, his previous career-best was 17.8.

While the Rockets were the worst team in the NBA last season, people certainly noticed Olynyk’s strong season.

It’ll be interesting to see whether a 30-year-old Olynyk will want to re-sign with a rebuilding team. Though he posted the best numbers of his career, his timeline and the Rockets timeline don’t exactly line up.

Back in May, Olynyk said that money, fit, opportunities, and playstyle will all play a factor in his decision.

I could see the Dallas Mavericks making a run at him.

They need some depth in the frontcourt. His strong shooting could pair nicely with Luka Doncic’s passing. And there’s still a chance Dallas trades Kristaps Porzingis. That would open up a starting role for Olynyk.

If he doesn’t ask for big money, Olynyk could be one of the best-value players in free agency.

2. Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen is a seven-footer that has the ability to shoot three-pointers. What’s not to like? I know, there’s more that goes into playing in the NBA than that, but it shows what kind of era we’re in.

Markkanen has spent all four seasons of his career with the Chicago Bulls. He had a solid rookie season, averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, but his second season was statistically the best of his young career.

In 2018-2019, he set career highs with 18.7 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. It certainly helped that he averaged a career-high 32.3 minutes per game.

Over the last two seasons, his numbers have taken a dip. Here is a look at those numbers:

Stat 2019-2020 2020-2021
Points Per Game 14.7 13.6
Rebounds Per Game 6.3 5.3

I think you can look at this in two ways. The stats did go down but so did his minutes.  Markkanen averaged 27.8 minutes over the last two seasons, and only started in 26 of 51 games last season.

On the other hand, he shot a career-high 48 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from three-point range last season.

So, what do teams primarily value with Markkanen? Is it his shooting ability for a seven-footer, or his low rebounding numbers for a seven-footer? I don’t think the rebounding numbers matter too much just because he isn’t playing the center position.

He is a restricted free agent, which means Chicago can match any offer he receives. However, it looks like Chicago would rather spend their money on a top-tier point guard.

This could open the door for the San Antonio Spurs. They never really replaced LaMarcus Aldridge last season, and Markkanen would seemingly slide right into the starting lineup at the four.

If Dallas decides to trade Kristaps Porzingis, Markkanen could also work out as a strong replacement.

1. John Collins

John Collins is the best free agent at the power forward position in 2021. And honestly, it isn’t even that close of a race.

Collins has been a valuable member of the Atlanta Hawks during his four-year career. In his rookie season, he averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. Collins also shot 57.6 percent from the field.

The following two seasons saw Collins take a big step forward. Just check out some of his stats from those seasons:

Stat 2018-2019 2019-2020
Points Per Game 19.5 21.6
Assists Per Game 2.0 1.5
Rebounds Per Game 9.8 10.1
Field Goal Percentage 56.0 58.3
Three-Point Percentage 34.8 40.1

He set a career-high in every stat in the 2019-2020 season, with the exception of assists per game.

Despite starting in every game, his minutes per game dropped from 33.2 to 29.3. In turn, his points per game dropped to 17.6. However, his shooting stats remained on par with the previous season’s.

Like Lauri Markkanen, Collins is a restricted free agent. Because of that, I can’t imagine a scenario where he doesn’t return to Atlanta. He is one of many young players that are helping the Hawks become a championship contender. Judging off last season, they aren’t far from that mark.

So, Collins is a good shooter, he’s good in the post, and he could put guys on a poster. His athleticism is what makes him one of the best young stars.

It’s pretty much a given that he’ll re-sign with the Hawks.

A bigger question is, how big will his contract be? We should note that he turned down a four-year, $90 million contract during the season.

Collins being a restricted free agent makes things interesting. Teams can offer Collins a contract of four years that pays up to $125 million. What will happen if the Hawks don’t view Collins as a max player?

It’ll probably be in their best interest to try and sign him quickly before other teams drive up his market.

Other NBA Power Forward Free Agents for 2021

  • Rudy Gay
  • P.J. Tucker
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Jeff Green

With shooting and athleticism so important in today’s NBA, teams usually sacrifice height and put a typical small forward at power forward.

That means guys like Rudy Gay, PJ Tucker, Carmelo Anthony, and Jeff Green all qualify as power forwards. Tucker is a defensive stopper, while the other three players will give you a plus shooting option at the four.

You could argue for any of them on your favorite team, as they all do at least one thing well, and provide value. The question of ideal fit will be key, as is the case with all the top NBA free agent power forwards in 2021.

This is just one position to monitor during 2021 NBA free agency, though. For a few more, check out the posts below.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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